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Category Archives: Vacation

Eat, Pray, Love During this time of Thanksgiving

Eat, Pray, Love During this time of Thanksgiving

Here we are in November and Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Yet, there have been two devastating wildfires: #WoosleyFire in Southern California and Butte County #CampFire wildfires in Northern California that have kept everyone scrambling to get to safety. I’m sad for the families that have lost their homes and loved ones and pray they get the help they need.  It’s times like these that I’m extra grateful for my family.

 

I was lucky enough to spend Tuesday last week with my Mom, her husband Tom, and their renter Ana in St. Helena. I was happy to drive them to the wine country and show them around for a few nibbles and sips of wine. Ana, originally from Croatia has been working as a traveling nurse at a nearby hospital. She will only be here for a few months and wants to see as much as possible. My Mom and Tom and I were available to spoil her, and since it was her birthday we made the day extra special.

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Great day on patio of Trinchero Winery

 

First we drove to Trinchero Family Estates in St. Helena. The property is decked out with the finest rock walls, luxurious textiles and sprawling vineyards. The view from their patio where there is bocce ball and a huge copper fire pit is nothing short of breath taking. Of course, they served plenty of wine to Tom and Ana while we strolled the meticulous grounds.

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Mom and me at Trinchero Estate

Lunch came next at the famous Rutherford Grill down the street. If you like good food, and excellent service you won’t want to go anywhere else. Plenty of warm out of the oven focaccia with their fruity herbed olive oil, olives, peppers, roasted almonds and cheese is always ordered as a starter. I’m a huge fan of their French dip, but was a little disappointed when we learned they don’t serve a complimentary birthday dessert. I’m going to keep that in mind next time there is a birthday to celebrate and we are choosing a restaurant. 😦

Next was Grgich Hills where we were hoping Ana could chat with the Croatian family. Unfortunately they weren’t on the property 😦 so we moved on. The town of St. Helena was calling us and we didn’t want to miss out on spending as much time there as we could.

 

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My Mom found a cute linen shop where they embroider personalized items for purchase. My Mom and I come from a long line of seamstresses on the Portuguese side and she was mesmerized by this place. Of course we had to stop at WoodHouse Chocolate since we needed a little something sweet for the birthday girl. They had artful displays of chocolate turkeys and pumpkins to get us thinking of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. But a tried and true dark chocolate espresso truffle was all I needed to get on with the day. Tom bought Mom and Ana English toffee with almonds another favorite of mine. Here’s my recipe.

Our family journey ended with a stop at Lucy’s Bar at the Bardessono Restaurant in Yountville. I love sitting out in their heated fireside patio where we can enjoy another cocktail, or in my case a hot chocolate with whipped cream since I was driving. My guests loved every second of it and especially enjoyed walking through the town of Yountville and not forgetting to get a pastry at Bouchon. Being a food and travel blogger has been fun and rewarding and especially memorable having time with my Mom. She has been ill for the past five years, but is doing extremely well.

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During this Thanksgiving holiday, I’m especially grateful that my Mom and Tom are well enough to travel with me to places like St Helena and Yountville. I hope you are enjoying your loved ones too. I’m keeping those who have lost their homes and family members in the fires in my prayers. If you have it in your hearts to donate to the Disaster Relief efforts within the Red Cross, anything you can give is helpful. Or here is the latest article on ways to help. And thank you to @tylerflorence for feeding those in need. Here is a preview of his latest movie Uncrushable on last years’ wildfire in the Wine Country.

Thanks for reading my blog. I’m happy to share my recipes and excursions with you. Follow me by subscribing and you will automatically receive my next blog posts in your email.  

Teri

 

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Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti

Tastes Like Vacation in Carneros and Biscotti
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Grapes just picked at Heirs of my Dream Winery Sonoma

 

Took a vacation day trip out to the Sonoma area last week. I’ve been wanting to check out the new Hanson Distillery along Hwy 12 in the Carneros Valley for some time. I’ve been passing this place and dying to go in, but I usually have my Dad in the car and he doesn’t want to stop at these places. While out and about, I also had the pleasure of walking around Homewood Winery, Troika Wines, and Ceja Vineyards. Of course I took advantage of checking out Domaine Carneros,  Napa’s Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli, their pumpkin farm next door, and Starmont Winery and Vineyards.

 

Today’s drive was spontaneous and last minute. Never enough time to schedule a pal to go along with me, so I decided to go by myself. It’s so much fun to explore these hidden gems especially this time of year. The colors are changing on the vines, the weather is cooler, and there is a crisp breeze which makes me want to drive to the wine country.

First was a tour of Heirs of my dream Winery by Ellie. She showed me around the quaint property letting me get a glimpse into her world. I was attracted to this property because I heard a man singing loudly while cleaning out wine barrels. This property is perfect for weddings and parties. Have I mentioned it is brand new? Their website is barely up, but they are doing exciting things.

 

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Gorgeous venue.

 

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Krzystof and Hanson’s vodka

 

Next was a mango, habanero vodka cocktail at Hanson’s Distillery carefully prepared by a Polish guy named Krzystof. I learned all about the Hanson family who are passionate about vodka and originally from Marin. They are the first non-GMO distillery in the US and make their vodka from grapes. They have many flavors: cucumber, ginger, mandarin, habanero, and limited varieties of espresso and boysenberry. The drink was delicious, a bit spicy too because of the habanero vodka and their Tajin Clasico Chili Lime Seasoning rimmed glass. The espresso had a bold rich flavor with notes of chocolate. The property is adorned with a pond and gorgeous romantic trees. It’s quite an experience if you are looking for a fun getaway.

 

On the same estate was Ceja Vineyards, but they were closed. Troika Wines were right next door and were offering tastings, but I had to decline since I was at my limit after drinking the cocktail. Across the road was Homewood Winery, but I chose to move on.

I’ve always wondered what the enormous breathtaking beautiful chateau was that is along Hwy 12 on the hill, and was pleasantly surprised to find Domaine Carneros. Reservations were required, but I was happy enough to walk around the premises. It seemed a bit stuffy for my taste, but I’m sure well worth the tasting if you are looking for sparkling wine and pinot noir.
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Fancy Pumpkins in wheel barrow

On the way back to Hwy 29 on the left was Stanly Lane Smokehouse Deli and I was getting plenty hungry by then. The family run business owned by Wilcoxson’s are best known for their authentic pit smoked meats. Pulled pork, chicken, tri tip and brisket sandwiches are served just to name a few. I didn’t stay, since I was intrigued by their pumpkin farm adjacent to the restaurant. I’m quite the farmer, and appreciate what goes into growing these crops. This atmosphere is family friendly and a must see for locals and travelers alike.

My last stop in the Carneros Valley was paying a visit to the 50 acres of  Starmont Winery and historic Stanly Ranch. Gargantuan eucalyptus trees grace the property which draw you in and make you want to see more. It was quiet yet inviting and a nice place to spend a couple of hours. Since I was driving, I didn’t partake in their tastings, but will go back someday.

I enjoyed my day trip to the Carneros Valley. The habanero vodka cocktail is something I’d like to make for friends in the future. I will probably make one of my famous cheese platters to go with them as well. Included will be my pineapple pepper jelly from my homegrown organic serrano peppers. I also enjoy my blenheim apricot jam to accompany the brie and blue cheese.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to make a trip to the Carneros Valley with a few friends or loved ones. I know I will be finding my way back there soon also. But until then, here is my recipe for ginger, apricot, pistachio biscotti. They are chewy, not like an ordinary biscotti and a real treat.

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Candied Ginger Apricot Pistachio Biscotti

 

Ingredients:

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 C Granulated Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

3 eggs

2 T Sambuca (an Italian Licorice flavored liquor)

2 T Grand Marnier

1 tsp Vanilla

1 tsp Anise Extract

1 C whole Pistachios

1 T fresh Orange Zest

1/2 t  Saltverk Licorice Salt (found in iceland) or substitute 1/2 t Kosher

½ C chopped Crystalized Ginger

¾ C Mariani Dried Apricots

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheet w parchment paper or a silpat.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder together in a large size bowl. In another bowl whisk eggs, both liqueurs, vanilla, anise, orange zest and salt.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in pistachios, ginger and apricots.

Divide dough in half and transfer onto parchment paper into two 2.5 inch wide logs with floured hands.

Bake until golden in color, firm and dry about 20 minutes.

Remove from pan and slice loaf on a diagonal into ¼ in to ½ in thick slices. Arrange cookies cut side down onto a sheet pan and bake again for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Enjoy! Do you have a favorite biscotti recipe? This is one I’ve adapted from a culinary class taken at Diablo Valley College’s pastry program.

And here is a terrific recipe for scones dipped in dark chocolate.

 

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A Whole Lotta Love, Herbs at SHED and Mojitos at Young & Yonder Healdsburg

A Whole Lotta Love, Herbs at SHED and Mojitos at Young & Yonder Healdsburg

Spent last Saturday in the North Bay touring the foodie scene in Healdsburg California. My husband Ken and I had the best day exploring the SHED Market, Costeaux French Bakery, and Young &Yonder Distillery. On the way home we stopped off at The Urban Tree Farm Nursery, Sift Bakery and at Aunt Molly’s house in Cotati.

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If you’ve never been to Healdsburg, then just go. It’s a vibrant town bursting with restaurants, wine tasting, and breweries like Healdsburg Beer Company, and Bear Republic Brewing Company. We settled for a more “spirit”ual day by having cocktails at Young and Yonder Distillery.

But first, we had to spend time at the coolest place around the SHED. This place is a foodie and gardeners dream offering a market, a cafe’, and a community gathering space. Not only do they offer workshops such as the one coming up from Apiarist Michael Thiele on honeybees, or a cheese tasting class by expert Janet Fletcher, but they offer so much more.

I could walk around there for hours reading cookbooks like “The Art of Fermentation”, by Sandor Ellix Katz, “The Baker’s Appendix” by Jessica Reed, “Small-Scale Grain Raising” by Gene Logsdon and numerous others. It would be awesome to grind my own organic flour someday so I don’t have to worry about the current state of toxic farming in the US.

 

The SHED sells beautiful pottery to serve your elegant gourmet dishes on, rose geranium, lavender oatmeal and coffee mint scented soaps that would be the perfect hostess gift. Luckily, I have my apricot jam to gift when we go to dinner at friends’.

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In addition to all these fine goods, Saturday brunch was happening, so we got a few snapshots of their menu items. We would have stayed, but there was so much more to see and do before heading off the tree farm  before it closed. I was impressed with their fresh herbs like lemon balm, purslane, dill, parsley, squash blossoms, sunflower greens, nasturtium, borage, and marigold most of which I grow in my own garden. Here’s a glimpse of my edible flower cocktail class that I taught to my garden club back in May of last year.

 

I could go on for hours about the SHED’S cheese and charcuterie selection, their juice bar, coffee bar, fresh country bread, fresh cut dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, and fragrant roses for all of us to be tempted by. I’m sure I’m leaving out plenty, but make a day of it and check it out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Lucky for us, we happened upon Young & Yonder Spirits where I had to sample owners Joshua and Sarah Opatz’ Absinthe Mojito. The absinthe is distilled with non-GMO corn, russian river water, anise seed, star anise, fennel, wormwood, coriander, ginger, lemon peel, tarragon, peppermint, lemongrass and eucalyptus.  They add fresh lime, fresh mint, simple syrup and ice to the absinthe and it was super refreshing. I’m loving serving mojitos to my guests when I entertain these days since I now have mint from the garden and lots of fresh citrus from Costco or if I’m lucky, my son Curtis’ backyard tree.

 

Joshua let me peek around the corner and photograph his dried herb and spice collection at Young and Yonder. He had shelves of glass jars full of botanicals like angelica root, sarsaparilla, dried pluots, cedar berries, dried bing cherries and figs, holy basil, honeysuckle flowers, California poppy seeds, lemon balm, rose hips, calendula and more. This week I’ve listened to a podcast on herbs called Remedy the Secret Science. It’s fascinating getting educated on how herbs can help you with sleep, stress and anxiety, healing your immune system, how to sharpen memory, curing lyme disease, solving cardiovascular disease  and depression and reversing cancer.

 

Many of the herbs that  I listed above were featured in the podcast, so purchasing a couple of bottles of their aromatic spirits was a no brainer. Besides, these herbaceus gins, vodkas, and bourbons would make great gifts.

 

Of course, I had to get a few bakery items at Costeaux Bakery for us to nibble on in the car on the way home. I bought a baguette w ham and cheese, a palmier cookie, and a coconut macaroon for us to share since we didn’t have time to sit down and eat. My husband was excited to purchase two new trees from the Urban Tree Farm in Windsor and we had limited time before they closed.

 

Lastly, we picked up some cupcakes and macaroons at Sift Bake Shop in Cotati before dropping in on Aunt Molly. We learned that Molly had just come home from the hospital after having heart rhythm complications. She  and her son Michael were happy to see us especially because we came bearing a “lemony snicket” a vanilla cake lemon curd filling w lemon buttercream frosting cupcake, and “Ooh la la” the classic red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting cupcake, and a few macarons. Molly shared  stories about Ken’s Mom and Dad’s wedding day and we enjoyed the visit very much. Taking the time to visit our relatives is something my husband and I take pride in. Especially since we lost one of my aunts recently.

 

 

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So if you find yourself looking for something fun to do, and your not too far from the California wine country, go hang out in Healdsburg. We barely scratched the surface and had so much more territory to explore. If you need more proof, check out my last trip to Healdsburg with my niece Michelle. It was a barrel of a good time drinking and eating our way through town.

Since you’ve read till the end, I will treat you with a tour of my Mom’s garden.

If you would like to receive more of my blogs on travel and food please sign up. You will get an email notifying you when I post next. I will also be sharing many of my recipes with you.  Thanks for stopping by.

Teri

 

 

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Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

Family Foodie Vacation and Art in Truckee

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Spent my birthday weekend at my sister’s friends house in Truckee last weekend. It was a fun filled time hiking, sleeping in (my favorite), board games, barbecuing nice meals and checking out Northstar Resort and The Ritz-Carlton Resort. My sister Susan, her friend Lori, my husband Ken, my and niece Marie and nephew Vince were able to change around their work schedules so they could stay with us too. 

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We hiked around Spooner lake with the two dogs and stayed nice and cool in the tall trees. The dogs loved getting in the lake while we watched for local birds like the white headed woodpecker, kestrels, steller’s jay, barn swallows and many others. Birding is one of my favorite hobbies and it’s fun to find new species when I travel.

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Marie bought me a “birthday” marion berry pie from Ikeda’s and it was scrumptious. She and my sister wanted to bake me a cake, but that’s a tall order to make a cake for a pastry chef. And we were all having so much fun playing outside and relaxing on their deck to bake in a hot kitchen.


The highlight of the trip was hanging out at the Northstar California Resort. They offer mountain biking, hiking, golf, Kids Adventure Camp, Mini Golf, and something called Kid Zone. There’s even a roller skating rink open during the summer for families that like that kind of thing. What we loved were the full body massages that were offered by Jackie at Tahoe Yoga and Wellness Center. This business gives yoga classes too, some of which I have attended.  Marie and I made appointments that morning and got right in. Now that’s the way to end a fun getaway weekend feeling all relaxed and pampered.

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Next we drove up the hill to explore lunch options at the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe. After all we were celebrating my birthday weekend and I’m always up for checking out 5 star hotels. This place was incredible inside and out. Very family oriented also, the outside seating at the Manzanita Restaurant included frisbees so kids could play in the nearby grass while waiting for their food. What a luxury to be able to have a conversation with your spouse and know your kids aren’t bored out of their mind. And they had a art show displaying famous artists inside the hotel. 

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The food was simple but delicious. The three of us shared the turkey club served warm with organic turkey, gruyère cheese, pecan-wood bacon, pickled onion, lettuce, tomato, and herb Mayonnaise. We also ordered the Mediterranean salad with loads of salty goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and nicely brined kalamata black olives.
It was exciting sitting outside when the rain started to come down in buckets. We were under a covered patio, so it was pleasant enough. We realized that anything can happen when you are in the mountains at high altitude. Taking time to visit with my niece and nephew on this vacation was priceless. We are so lucky to have family that lives in the Truckee area. Maybe next time our own kids will join us.

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Fennel, Chive and Heirloom Tomato Green Salad

 

Ingredients:

1 Head of Organic lettuce washed and torn to large bite sized pieces

1 carrot peeled and shredded

¼ bulb fennel sliced thinly (saving the dill like fronds to top for decoration)

2 T chives finely chopped (saving the florets for top to decorate)

1 C chopped red and yellow heirloom tomatoes from the garden

 

Directions:

Place greens in a large bowl. Sprinkle remaining veggies onto greens and toss saving dill fronds and chive florets for the top. Place salad plates in fridge earlier in the day. 

Serves 7
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Apricot White Balsamic Salad Dressing

 

Ingredients:

 

1 T Dijon Mustard

2 T Organic Blenheim Apricot Preserves

¼ C White Balsamic Vinegar (or Champagne Vinegar)

1 T grapeseed oil

1 t minced shallot

2 t minced garlic

1 T local honey

1 orange/lime/ or lemon freshly squeezed

½ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

In a small saucepan, saute shallots and garlic in 1 T grapeseed oil on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add honey.

Place dijon mustard and apricot jam in a small to medium size bowl. Add sauteed shallots, garlic and honey. Add balsamic vinegar, citrus, salt and pepper and stir. Slowly incorporate olive oil in a steady stream while whisking. Set in fridge until ready to eat salad. Nothing worse than bruised and wilted lettuce, so don’t put dressing on until last minute and toss lightly after pouring dressing around edges of inside of the bowl. This way, all lettuce gets covered evenly.

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Father’s Day in Napa, 80th Birthday Casino Style and Fudge in Truckee

Father’s Day in Napa, 80th Birthday Casino Style and Fudge in Truckee

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Father’s Day weekend ended up being a huge success. I spoiled my dad by taking him to a restaurant in Napa for lunch, the movies to see Solo: A Star Wars Story and made him his favorite steak dinner. Then my family went on to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday at Twin Pines Casino in Middletown, California about 2 hours from my home.

 

South Kelly Grill was a fun way to spend our Father’s Day brunch. Even though there was a huge line out the door we were able to sneak in and sit at the bar. You see, my dad has no patience and would not have been able to wait even 10 minutes. So we were lucky to ask some patrons if they wouldn’t mind scooting over, so dad and I could sit together. They graciously accommodated us and we got to ordering since we were famished.

 

 

 

 

Dad had steak and eggs, and I heard great things about their fried chicken and waffles, so I decided to settle on that. It’s always a good sign if a restaurant has a wait, so I was pleasantly surprised when the food came out and saw how perfectly everything was plated. The place was bustling and the interior décor has a country vibe that was fun and friendly. Dad enjoyed his meal, but my fried chicken tasted like baked frozen chicken nuggets!  Super disappointed, but the waffles made up for it. The portions were HUGE and the waitress attended to our every need. I would go back.

 

When we finally made it to my house,  my husband Ken and son Andrew took dad to see Star Wars. They all loved it, and I made it to Costco to pick up a skirt steak. After the movie, Ken barbequed and both my son’s came over for dinner to celebrate Father’s Day. It’s always a treat to have my boys over at the same time.

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Dadio and Sister Sue taking a quick pic before driving North

The next day, my sister Sue and I drove Dad to his favorite place Twin Pines Casino where we met up with my brother Rick. The three of us took turns sitting by Dad who was in heaven playing the slot machines. We ate at the fairly priced Manzanita Restaurant on site and we were happy about their selection and large portions. The four of us stayed one night, my brother sleeping in a room w my dad and Sue and I in an adjoining room. Dad loved gambling at his favorite casino and was happy to spend his 80th birthday with his kids. To top off all the fun, Dad won a $1000.00 jackpot at 6:30AM the next morning on his actual birthday! What a way to turn 80! Dad was thrilled and was happy to have his daughter Julie join us for lunch. All four of his kids were there to enjoy time with dad. It couldn’t have gone any better.

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My brother Rick dropped our exhausted Dad off back at the Yountville Veterans Home, and had to head home to his wife and three year old. The rest of us Sue, Julie and I drove 3.5 hours to Truckee California. We stopped for dinner at 1882 Bar and Grill where we relaxed with cocktails and enjoyed salads and burgers for dinner.

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We settled in at my sister’s friend’s place for the night and woke up at a decent hour to take the 5 mile walk into town along the river. It’s a beautiful path adorned with wild flowers and singing birds. Truckee is a fun place to shop, dine and wander in and around the many art galleries. 

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From the left my sister Sue, me and sister Julie taking a quick selfie along the Truckee River.

We enjoyed a late breakfast at Jax’s Restaurant where I shared an espresso chocolate mocha shake with my sisters. They were to die for! Probably the best shake I’ve ever had.  I had fun showing my artsy sister Julie  Atelier an amazing craft store. They sell gorgeous yarns for knitting, painting supplies and dozens of books to inspire you to get busy with your hands. I’m totally inspired when I walk in and see the colorful calligraphy projects and excited about their mostly sold out workshops like floral arranging or their knit and sip classes. So fun!

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Inside of Atelier where crafters are in heaven

Truckee is known for it’s summer street festivals held on Thursdays June through August. There’s live music, great food, beer and activities for the kids. It’s not to be missed. My favorite pastry is found here too. It’s called a “Crispy” loaded with apple, berry, or cherries. Yum! We also walked into Sweets Handmade Candies store and enjoyed watching a guy make fudge. OMG. And their toffee looked amazing too. Here’s my blog and recipe for the best toffee ever. If you’d like to know more about the goings on in Truckee check out truckee.com/events for more information.

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Here’s a glimpse into what Truckee has to offer

The trip was unfortunately cut short since I had to get home to attend a “Where the Wild things Are” themed baby shower for some good friends. But I will be back to Truckee in the next two weeks to celebrate my birthday. Stay tuned…

 

Are you celebrating any milestone birthdays or going anywhere special this summer? If so, we would all love to hear about them in the comments below. And feel free to follow my blog by subscribing. I would love to share more of my food and travel experiences with you as well as some of my favorite recipes.

 

 

 

 

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It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Yountville, [but go early for a foodie day]

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere in Yountville,  [but go early for a foodie day]

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Enjoyed a getaway vacation last week with my girlfriend Cathy. I decided it was time to show her around the Napa Valley. Today’s blog will be all about our adventures wine tasting and eating our way through the vineyards. It truly is my “happy place.”
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What a day it was. Cathy and I started out touring her own vegetable garden in Alamo. I was impressed by her ability to make every space a pleasure to look at. Cathy is an interior decorator by trade. She had her own successful business for many years in the Bay Area. Her and her husband raised their kids in Alamo and we met while our boys were in Junior High at Stone Valley Middle School. And she is a chef and foodie like me, so it is awesome that we’ve stayed in touch over the years.

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Back to the adventure…First we stumbled upon Saintsbury located in the Carneros Valley. We learned that the tasting fee was $35.00 each and would take an hour. We had big plans for the day and couldn’t spare the time, so onward we went.

Around the corner was Etude Winery. They are also a bit on the snobby side trying to charge us for the one person tasting fee even though Cathy was purchasing two bottles of their 2016 Chardonnay. After I explained that I was a food blogger, our pourer graciously took off the $25.00 fee. It was a beautiful day and we were very surprised to see a huge spread of salads, various cheeses, bread, and an enormous meat platter for very hungry Backroads bicyclists. These people come from all over the world to experience what the wine country has to offer. Great fun!


After tasting at Etude (I had a couple of sips cause I was the designated driver), and seeing their glorious wild poppy garden and listening to the swallows nesting in their mud houses, we stopped off at Bistro Don Giovnanni. There we imbibed in glasses of pinot grigio from luna vineyards in Napa, and their Fritto Misto w calamari, rock shrimp, fennel, onions green beans w a spicy aioli. We had a big day planned, so we opted to save our appetite for later. Cathy had never been to this restaurant and she was delighted by our Italian server and their generous hospitality. They even offered us coupons for tastings at the new winery nextdoor!


After our luxurious break, we went on ahead to the cute town of Yountville. After parking in the shade, we walked along the main street where we talked to the women at the information center. They had lots of ideas for us of wineries to drive to, but I was content to show Cathy what Yountville had to offer. First we checked out The Spa at the Estate Villagio Inn where we were offered a tour of the spa. It was fun smelling their lotions and seeing what spa packages they had to offer. We learned they are currently under renovations to upgrade their accommodations.

Next we stepped into the extraordinary JCB Tasting Salon . Jean-Charles Boisset’s tasting experience was over the top. They offered us a Gala Brut Champagne and the No 50 Brut Blanc de Blanc, Burgundy and a $200 bottle of wine tasting since it was already open. Fabulous! We were spoiled rotten by Daniela who also took us on a private tour of the luxury JCB Salon Prive’ located next door. It has an opulence about it that the decorator in Cathy adored.

Onward to Bardessono Hotel and Lucy Restaurant . It’s normally a $50.00 charge to open a bottle of wine from home, but our generous waiter erased that fee and allowed me to bring in a picnic. The wine, cheese, nuts and fruit were just what we needed to relax in the outdoor patio. Cathy was ready for their cosmopolitan cocktail to make a splash and bring on the warm Yountville evening. She liked it so much, she ordered a second!

A walk through the gardens at The French Laundry was our last stop. Here we spotted a few butterflies, artichoke plants, strawberry plants and rows and rows of glorious organic greens. I would love to enjoy a meal there someday since Thomas Keller the owner and Executive chef of tfl is my idol.

 

It was a day to remember for sure, and I can’t wait to experience Napa and St Helena again soon. You should too. Is there a secret get away place you want to tell me about? I want to hear all about it in the comments below. Sign up for my blog by including your email, and I promise to never leave you out of my upcoming food and travel blogs. Here’s my latest on Carmel California.

 

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Have a Little Art, Wine and Plenty of Pastries in Carmel California

Have a Little Art, Wine and Plenty of Pastries in Carmel California
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This is my artist friend Margery and mutual friend Heidi who owns Hippievibetribe.com a bohemian clothing an accessory online store

 My husband and I took  a day trip to Carmel last weekend to see a dear friends’ art show at Anthony “Tony” Vanderploeg’s  Amsterdam. Margery Ammond and I have been friends for many years. She and I met at the neighborhood book club. We spent many hours together pouring over books, as Margery has always been an avid reader. Turns out, Margery is also a fabulous artist.

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Margery Ammon with the owner of the Gallerie Amsterdam Tony Vanderploeg

But that wasn’t a surprise to me. About 15 years ago, my siblings and I purchased a beautiful painting of Margery’s that was a scene from the Senanque abbey near Gordes France. This portrait oil painting has a huge field of lavender flowers with an abbey in the background. Simply exquisite! My Mother keeps the colorful mural over her fireplace, since lavender flowers are her favorite.

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This is Margery’s painting. Such a beautiful piece of art

As you can see Margery’s new pieces are just as gorgeous. This time she paints pictures of butterflies along with gorgeous flowers from her garden. Outstanding work. In the past, she has focused on paintings of vineyards in Napa, and Healdsburg, scenes of Mount Diablo, gorgeous landscapes of Lake Tahoe and also earlier pieces of still lifes of fruit and silver.

I have a huge appreciation for people with these amazing creative skills as I can’t draw a stick figure. But that’s okay, we all have our strengths. Mine happen to be more culinary oriented. And I can’t forget when Margery generously donated her quality pots and pans to me since she bought a new stove which required a whole new set of cookware. So thoughtful of her!

Margery also displays her art in Truckee California at Art Obsessions, in Canada, and in Europe as well. I’m sure you will fall in love with her art like I have. She enjoys painting as a hobby and works very hard on her craft 4 days a week. She loves what she does and it shows. She paints for the joy of seeing vibrant colors on a blank canvas. We met for lunch today to get caught up since she doesn’t attend the book club meetings anymore. She’s too busy painting! Margery‘s smile radiates through the room and she brings joy to everyone around her. How lucky I am to have met her and to have gotten the chance to see her latest art show.  

If you make a trip to Carmel, be sure to check out the Carmel Bakery. Ken and I stumbled into this special place along our walk through the streets in that cute little town. Since my husband and I had to cut our visit short, we grabbed an ice cream cone and few pastries for the car ride home. This bakery was EVERYTHING! I practically bought one everything that I laid my eyes on. The cherry turnover was delish, as well as the raspberry strudel pastry that my husband devoured before I could get a bite. Of course, I had to taste their gingerbread cookie too. A little disappointing actually. Not as gingery as I would have liked plus it was somewhat dry. The hot chocolate didn’t blow me away,  but it was good and chocolatey nonetheless. I bought my hubby the cheesy pretzel since he loves bread and he gobbled it up right away.

You won’t want to miss out on a day trip to Caramel where you can enjoy lots of art galleries (65 total), get in a winery or two, or grab a coffee from the local bakery before heading out of town. It’s a happening place and worth the two hour drive down the coast.We didn’t make time to visit a winery, but walked by Albatross Ridge and I was sooo tempted.If I didn’t need to help with the driving, I would have been all in.

We even took my son’s dog Hank for a walk on the beach.Caramel is a  dog friendly town, it seems everyone has a puppy. Hank was hoping I would drop my ice cream cone, so he could have a lick or two. That wasn’t going to happen because I’m a mocha almond fudge freak. I’m obsessed.And I didn’t even have to share because my husband doesn’t like chocolate! Score. More for me!

Leave me a comment below about your favorite artist, ice cream flavor or recent adventure. I’d love to hear all about it. Get out there and make it a great day!

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